Major rail disruption looms in August as stations are closed

Rail passengers have been warned of unprecedented summer disruption with major engineering works closing some of Britain’s biggest stations in August.

Commuters into London will be the most affected as Network Rail prepares to carry out work worth £133m, including the biggest bank holiday engineering works it has ever planned.

The worst of the disruption will be felt by passengers using Waterloo, the UK’s busiest station, which will see about half its platforms closed for more than three weeks from 5 August, meaning many South West trains will not run. Passengers have been warned to expect queues of up to half an hour just to enter suburban stations on the network, such as Wimbledon and Surbiton, during summer rush hours.

Euston will close entirely on the 26-27 August bank holiday weekend, affecting some services on the West Coast main line to Birmingham and cities north to Glasgow. London Bridge and Charing Cross will be closed to Southeastern services for a week from the same weekend. London Paddington and Liverpool Street will also be affected, with only King’s Cross St Pancras, Victoria and Marylebone operating normally in the capital, although all are expected to be busier than usual to accommodate alternative journeys.

Network Rail said the work would bring significant benefits to millions of passengers, allowing longer, more spacious and modern trains to run on the busiest part of the network.

Chief executive Mark Carne said that many projects were “round the final bend and in the home straight”, after years of engineering work. More than 17,000 people would be employed by Network Rail over the bank holiday weekend to meet milestones on Crossrail and the Thameslink programme, he said. “Reaching these major milestones means that passengers will be one step closer to experiencing real benefits by the end of this year with more to come in 2018-19, including more than 170,000 new seats for the daily commute into London – a 20% increase.”

According to Network Rail, the combined extra rail capacity is enough to take more than 140,000 cars off the road – equivalent to a three-lane traffic jam from London to Cardiff.

Carne said that while most work was now conducted at night with minimal disruption, the projects needed several uninterrupted days to complete critical work. Network Rail faced intense criticism in recent years after Christmas holiday engineering works overran, leading some politicians to call for such works to be carried out at other times.

But Carne said Network Rail had “done work to examine that assumption” and concluded that bank holiday weekends were the best option. He said: “We know there is never a good time to disrupt services to get this work done, but it does make sense to do so when fewer people are travelling. Bank holidays and the summer months can see up to 50% fewer passengers using the railway.”

Carne said that he wanted the public to plan ahead and be aware that there would be major changes to many services around the capital, although holidaymakers could be reassured that all airport trains will run as normal.

South West Trains passengers have been warned for some months that many peak-time services will not run, leaving some stations on the network closed entirely and others extraordinarily busy, while engineers extend Waterloo’s platforms for bigger trains. The South Western franchise will also change hands from Stagecoach to new operators First-MTR during the upheaval, which Carne said was “not ideal”. He said that emergency maintenance teams would be on standby in case other problems occurred to further deplete the train service, adding: “We all know it’s going to be very tough.”

The closure of Euston is to allow the first major engineering work to take place for HS2, the controversial £55bn high-speed railway.

A month of delays on the route from London Paddington to Wales will also start on 19 August, with engineering work between Swindon and Bristol Parkway seeing fast trains diverted and replacement buses on some services.

The affected stations

London Waterloo: Half closed from 5-28 August, with “significant reductions” to South West services.

London Bridge, Waterloo East and Charing Cross: No Southeastern services between 26 August and 2 September, while London Bridge and the surrounding railway is rebuilt for Thameslink.

Cannon Street and Blackfriars: No Southeastern trains on 26-27 August.

London Euston: No trains at all on 26-27 August, due to enabling works for HS2.

London Liverpool Street: No trains to/from Shenfield/Barking on 27-28 August, due to work for the new Crossrail or Elizabeth line services.

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